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Taste of the Month: Red Horse Tavern

on February 26, 2013 1:47 PM

Converted to a restaurant and bar in the 1950s, the Red Horse Tavern is a Centre County landmark that was originally built in the 1940s as a residential home. New owners and chefs Justin Leiter and Courtney Confer took over the Red Horse Tavern, located at 104 North Main Street in Pleasant Gap, in June 2012, and, after months of renovations, reopened its doors in October.

The new menu focuses on local, fresh ingredients and offers diners a simple and casual selection of American comfort foods, all prepared in-house, from a classic burger to a house-smoked brisket sandwich.

“We wanted a menu that was simple, but done right and consistently, so whether you are a business professional coming in for lunch or a family looking for a bite to eat for dinner, you can come here once or twice a week and find something on the menu that becomes your favorite,” says Leiter.

Leiter’s inspiration for the menu comes from his experience working at many of the area’s premier restaurants. Growing up in Bellefonte, he always had an interest in cooking, and after high school, he went to the Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh. After graduating in 1996, he returned to the area and did an internship at The Atherton Hotel in State College.

“After my internship, I went to work as a sous chef at the Gamble Mill Restaurant in Bellefonte for 10 years and that’s where I met Courtney Confer, who owned it at the time,” explains Leiter. “Then, I worked at the Carnegie House for two years before going to cook at the Village at Penn State, where I met my wife, Renee, who coincidently went to the same culinary school I did.”

Some popular and unique dishes at the Red Horse Tavern include the tuna burger made with house-smoked tuna and served with peppers, southwest spices, and adobo sauce on a Kaiser roll; the pork tenderloin served with a wild mushroom and bacon ragout; and the Louisiana shrimp sautéed with herbs, lemon juice, and barbeque butter served with a smoked gouda polenta cake.

“One of our popular sides is Mom’s Beans, and it’s a dish that my mother and Confer’s mother used to make for us growing up. Some people here call it Calico beans, and it’s basically BBQ baked big butter and kidney beans with beef and bacon,” Leiter says.

As the restaurant evolves, Leiter plans to add items to the dinner menu that change with the seasons to utilize the fresh produce and ingredients found locally.


Featured Selection:

Hours of Operations:

Lunch: Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Dinner: Monday-Saturday, 4-9 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Weekly specials include braised short ribs with sweet-potato hash on Thursdays, and beer-battered fish, stewed tomatoes, and macaroni and cheese on Fridays. Check the restaurant’s blackboard for specials for lunch and dinner.

For information about catering, call (814) 359-2082.


Red Horse Tavern BBQ Louisiana Shrimp and Polenta

Louisiana shrimp

0.25 cup melted butter

0.25 cup oil

1 oz lemon juice

1 tsp salt

0.5 tsp pepper

0.25 cup BBQ sauce

1 tsp Rosemary

1 tsp thyme

0.5 tsp crushed red pepper( mix all in bowl)

36-40 medium shrimp peeled and deveined. Add shrimp to a pan with sauce and cook low turning shrimp until white and cooked thru.


0.5 medium onion small dice.

2 oz butter

3 cup chicken stock

2-2.5 cup polenta

1.5 cup smoked Gouda grated

0.5 cup half and half

Sal and pepper to taste

3 oz whole butter.

Add 2 oz butter to pot and melt on low, add onion and cook low until soft. Add stock bring to boil. Turn down and whisk in corn meal. Should add enough corn meal so you are still able to whisk but not a thick paste. Add half and half cheese and butter. Season with SnP and cook on low for another 5-10 minutes, continuing to stir. Serve with shrimp.

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